New LGBTQ Operas Coming Out in Hard Times

February 23, 2017
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Taylor Raven, left, and Brian Vu portray Hannah, the transgender heroine of As One at Pittsburgh Opera. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

In light of recent news from Washington, American Opera Projects (AOP) announces that of its 31 new operas in development, four are on LGBTQ topics. For AOP, this is not new. In 1998, AOP premiered the first opera ever to focus on a lesbian relationship, Patience & Sarah, by composer Paula M. Kimper, and librettist Wende Persons, three years after Houston Grand Opera’s premiere of Harvey Milk composed by Stewart Wallace to a libretto by Michael Korie.

Upcoming LGBTQ operas are:

While AOP’s roster of LGBTQ operas is growing, clearly in our era there is still significant progress to be made. At the same time, these operas are being embraced across the US. As One, the first opera about a transgender person, by artistic team Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed is now one of the most performed new operas in America. Following AOP’s premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One has had productions in Seattle, Washington D.C., Berkeley, Logan, UT, Berlin, and just last week, Pittsburgh, where the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “pertinent and moving,” with upcoming shows in San Diego, Denver, New Orleans, Long Beach, Kansas City, and more.

As One forces you to think, simultaneously challenging preconceptions and inspiring empathy.” – The New York Times

Opera has unfortunately been late to embrace contemporary works, especially ones that address current events and lifestyles. But it is encouraging to see that more and more opera companies recognize the need to be an art form that reflects the stories of our time. In recent years, audiences have seen successful premieres of LGBTQ-themed operas such as Paul’s Case, Before Night Falls, and A Letter to East 11th Street – all having received development in AOP’s First Chance program – as well as Fellow Travelers, Three Decembers, Brokeback Mountain, Prince of Players, Champion, and Angels in America.

At a time when the Trump Administration has removed the Obama-era guidance allowing trans people to select school restrooms according to gender choice, AOP will continue to actively pursue works like these for development and production.

AOP’s most recent world premiere Three Way “explores sex without moralizing” (The East Nashvillian) depicting modern sexuality in three short, comic one acts. The co-production with Nashville Opera, where it had its well-received premiere in January, will come to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June 2017.

I’m here for an opera that explains to straight people what being trans- or cis-gender is. Hopefully, we as the audience come to a deeper understanding with them. – Schmopera.com‘s review of Three Way’s world premiere in Nashville.

For us to empathize with the struggles of others there can be no art form where their stories are not told. Giving every minority – of race, gender, country, political view, you name it – an opportunity to tell their story may seem impossible, but it is still the ideal. More immediately, we hold as a goal that a proliferation of these stories will allow opera audiences to recognize that the conflicts and lives of every person are relatable. And that the discovery of those inherent, relatable truths of our unified humanity makes enlightening, and exciting, entertainment.

Bloggers: Matt Gray & Annie Troy

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Gender-fluid couple Kyle (Jordan Rutter) and Tyler (Melisa Bonetti), left, get eyed by another couple in Three Way. Photo by Anthony Popolo.


BROOKLYN OPERA COMPANY AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS NAMES ANNE TROY AS DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT

January 26, 2017
AOP Director of Development Anne Troy

Anne Troy, AOP Director of Development

NEW YORK, NY, January 10, 2017— Brooklyn-based nonprofit arts organization American Opera Projects (AOP) is pleased to announce the appointment of Anne Troy as its new Director of Development. Troy will create, implement, and oversee all fundraising and development activities of the organization that has developed and presented new works of opera across the country for over 25 years.

At this critical juncture in AOP’s history, in which the organization’s operating budget has more than doubled in the past two years with the premieres of critically-lauded and commercially successful new operas such as As One and Hagoromo (BAM Next Wave Festival), the Director of Development will continue to stimulate that growth by deepening the fundraising capacity of AOP at all levels, from individual contributions and board development, to foundation and government support. The creation of the Director of Development position is funded in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Troy served as Development Director of the New York City Mayor’s Fund, the Marilyn Horne Foundation, and Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development as well as on fundraising projects for the Martina Arroyo Foundation, Martha Graham Dance Company, and the YMCA of Greater New York. Before moving into development, Troy was a creative supervisor at Young & Rubicam Direct Marketing. Her career shifted from advertising to social issues when she left to help launch Habitat for Humanity in New York City and work for services and housing for homeless and HIV-positive New Yorkers, including starting the first school in a homeless shelter in the US.

“I am proud to announce that Anne Troy has accepted the position of Development Director,” writes General Director Charles Jarden. “Anne is a great match for this brand new position at AOP. As a former development staff member of The Marilyn Horne Foundation plus being knowledgeable about the opera field in general, she knows the scene from a personal vantage point. She has also had a distinguished career in social justice focusing on affordable housing and economic development advocacy. This AOP position will give Anne an opportunity to bring together her interests and passions—and we will benefit from her broad experience and expertise.”

Founded in 1988, American Opera Projects is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement, commissioning, developing, presenting, and producing opera and music theatre projects, collaborating with young, rising, and established artists, and engaging audiences in unique and transformative theatrical experiences. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, including the Nathan Davis/Brendan Pelsue dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM, 2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013) and the upcoming 2017 co-production with Nashville Opera of Robert Paterson’s Three Way (Nashville Opera, BAM Fisher). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Stefan Weisman’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival and Pittsburgh Opera (2014), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera (2012), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011) and Opera Parallèle (2015), and the upcoming The Summer King by Daniel Sonenberg at Pittsburgh Opera (2017).

AOP is an IRS recognized 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, and is a member of OPERA America, Fort Greene Association, the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance, the New York Opera Alliance, and Alliance of Resident Theatres/ New York (A.R.T./NY).


Three new operas developed by American Opera Projects to premiere in early 2017

January 18, 2017

American Opera Projects (AOP) in New York is currently developing twenty-one new operas with three to premiere in 2017 in multiple locations across the US:

THREE WAY – a sex comedy opera
Premieres January 27 – 29 @ Nashville Opera and June 15-18 @ Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
With music by Robert Paterson (The Whole Truth) and a libretto by David Cote (The Scarlet Ibis), Three Way is a new opera on the present and future of sex and love. In three playful one-acts, average heroes explore the worlds of android lovers, BDSM and multiple partners in their searches for the emotional connections that are ever-elusive in today’s romantic world. Sexy, funny and a little bit shocking, Three Way combines complex but melodic music with witty humor and personal drama creating an Il trittico for the Tinder generation. Nashville Opera and AOP will present the world premiere of Three Way January 27-29, 2017 at The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, TN and June 15-18, 2017 at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn, NY in a production directed by John Hoomes and conducted by Dean Williamson. It will feature performances by singers Courtney Ruckman, Samuel Levine, Danielle Pastin, Jordan Rutter, Wes Mason, Melisa Bonetti, Matthew Treviño, and Eliza Bonet with the Nashville Opera Orchestra (January) and the American Modern Ensemble (June performances). Three Way is sung in English with projected English titles, and contains adult language and situations intended for mature audiences. Tickets for the January world premiere are on sale at www.nashvilleopera.org.

THE SUMMER KING – life of Negro League baseball star, Josh Gibson
Premieres April 29-May 7 @ Pittsburgh Opera
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
The very first world premiere in Pittsburgh Opera’s distinguished 78-year history, The Summer King tells the story of baseball legend Josh Gibson who went from the sandlots of Pittsburgh’s North Side to the pinnacle of greatness in the Negro Leagues, before ultimately being enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. With music by Daniel Sonenberg and libretto by Daniel Sonenberg and Daniel Nester, and additional lyrics by Mark Campbell, Pittsburgh Opera will present the world premiere at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. Alfred Walker and Denyce Graves lead a cast directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by Antony Walker. The Summer King was commissioned by Portland Ovations. For tickets and details see www.pittsburghopera.org/show/the-summer-king.

INDEPENDENCE EVE – 100 years of racial tension and relations in the US
Premieres June 3 – 11, Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
Washington D.C.’s UrbanArias and AOP present the world premiere of Independence Eve, a new chamber opera in three scenes by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer that explores the troubled journey of race relations in America. Comprised of three unrelated scenes, each of which take place on July 3 in an unspecified American city, Independence Eve focuses on the stories of three black males (each played by baritone Jorell Williams), and three white males (each played by tenor Brandon Snook), who struggle with identity and acceptance amidst race issues that span one hundred years of the American experience. Independence Eve is the fifth AOP-developed opera presented by UrbanArias following the world premieres of She, After, and Paul’s Case, last season’s As One, and this spring’s Lucy. UrbanArias Artistic Director Robert Wood conducts the world premiere that runs June 3-11, 2017 at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Complete info can be found at www.urbanarias.org.

AS ONE – story of transgender self-discovery also presented across US: This spring will also feature new productions of the chamber opera As One at Pittsburgh Opera (Feb 18-26), Opera Colorado (March 2-4), and Long Beach Opera (May 13-21), making a total of nine new productions since AOP commissioned, developed and premiered the work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The opera for mezzo-soprano, baritone and string quartet by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/ filmmaker Kimberly Reed, depicts the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world.

ABOUT AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS www.aopopera.org
Founded in 1988, American Opera Projects is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement, commissioning, developing, presenting, and producing opera and music theatre projects, collaborating with young, rising, and established artists, and engaging audiences in unique and transformative theatrical experiences. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, including the Nathan Davis/Brendan Pelsue dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Kaminsky/Reed/ Campbell’s As One (BAM, 2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013) and the upcoming 2017 co-production with Nashville Opera of Robert Paterson’s Three Way (Nashville Opera, BAM Fisher). AOP develops new operas through two programs made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other generous donors that train emerging artists, and provide resources, workshop and production opportunities:

First Chance: First Chance allows composers and librettists to hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience, with live singers and accompaniment. Through question and answer sessions, First Chance allows audience members to provide input while artists discover their own unique voices. AOP then works on attracting presenting partners to produce a fully-staged world premiere including BAM, Lincoln Center Festival, and UrbanArias (in the DC metro area). www.aopopera.org/firstchance.html

Composers & the Voice: Created and led by Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera and former Artistic Director of AOP), the Composers & the Voice fellowship training program provides composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. AOP will begin its ninth season in Fall 2017, with applications made available on its website on March 15. Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 54 composers & librettists. A complete list of alumni can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

American Opera Projects
138 S. Oxford St. Ste. 3-D, Brooklyn, NY 11217 • 718.398.4024 • aoperaprojects.org


AOP takes Hagoromo on Tour – First Stop: The Pocantico Center

September 2, 2016

American Opera Project’s premier of Hagoromo at the BAM Harvey Theatre last year was a major success that “seamlessly integrated the worlds of experimental music, dance, theatre, opera, puppetry and fashion into a rich, sober whole” (Financial Times.) This month AOP takes the praised, multi-genre opera to Tarrytown, NY to perform a 50-minute fully-staged excerpt at The Pocantico Center-Kykuit House. Even those who were lucky enough to catch the sold-out premiere will have surprises in store since the excerpts will contain some new dances and puppetry ideas.

The performance will take place at 3:30pm on Saturday, September 24th on the lawn of the Kykuit House, which has been the home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. It will follow a two-week residency at which the creative team will be reimagining sections of the work in preparation for a projected national tour in the 2017-18 season. Both the performance and residency are made possible through the generous support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Poc Pic

Hagoromo is a multidisciplinary work inspired by one of the masterpieces of Japanese Noh drama about the fateful encounter between a fallen angel and a poor fisherman, performed by former New York City Ballet principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Director David Michalek’s thoroughly contemporary vision is a bold experiment in hybrid forms: a chamber opera composed by Nathan Daviss and librettist Brendan Pelsue, with dance choreographed by David Neumann, puppetry by Chris M. Green performed by puppeteers Ren Carrillo, Tristan Farmer, Catherine Gowl, Leah Hoffman, Rowan Magee, and Erin Orr, dramaturgy by Norman Frisch, and costumes created by the celebrated Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. The work also includes recorded music from the 2015 World Premiere production at the BAM Fisher featuring contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsits, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Tickets to the Sep. 24th performance are limited and available at AOP’s Events Page. Rain date is Sunday, September 25.

Hagoromo Whelan and Soto

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.


AOP takes operas to space, asylums, and a human uterus in “Six Scenes”

August 18, 2016

SINGERS TO PERFORM SCENES FROM NEW OPERAS BY EMERGING COMPOSERS & LIBRETTISTS CREATED IN AOP FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM “COMPOSERS & THE VOICE”

BROOKLYN, NY, August 16, 2016— This fall, contemporary opera producer AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS (AOP) will present COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: SIX SCENES 2016, a concert of opera scenes from ten artists emerging in the world of contemporary opera. Audiences will get a first look at six wildly different new works that range from imagining moments in the lives of famous people such as Sigmund Freud and Mabel Dodge Luhan or events taking place in a spaceship, an asylum, and a uterus. The composers Matthew Barnson, Carlos R. Carrillo, Nell Shaw Cohen, Marc LeMay, Cecilia Livingston, and Sky Macklay and librettists Edward Einhorn, Duncan McFarlane, Emily Roller, and Mark Sonnenblick, were chosen by AOP to spend a year creating new works in its bi-annual fellowship program Composers & the Voice (C&V).

The performances will be held on Friday, September 30 at 8:00pm at South Oxford Space (138 S. Oxford St.) in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the home of AOP, and on Sunday, October 2 at 2:30pm at the National Opera Center (330 7th Ave, 7th floor) in Manhattan. Tickets range from $10-$25 general admission and are available at www.aopopera.org.

20160514-DSC_3230xBass Jonathan Woody performs during the May  2016 Composers & the Voice songs concert First Glimpse at South Oxford Space with music director Kelly Horsted on piano. Photo: Steven Pisano.

Six Scenes 2016 will be performed by the AOP Resident Ensemble of Singers: coloratura soprano Tookah Sapper (Manhattan School of Music), lyric soprano Jennifer Goode Cooper (NYCO, Glimmerglass), mezzo-soprano Caitlin McKechney (Opera Memphis, Florida Grand Opera), tenor Blake Friedman (BAM, St. Petersburg Opera), baritone Kyle Guglielmo (Sarasota Opera), and bass Jonathan Woody (BAM, Apollo’s Fire). Each of the scenes were composed specifically for the singers’ voices, after months of study and experimentation during the C&V program. Supporting on piano will be C&V Music Directors Mila Henry, Kelly Horsted, and Charity Wicks.

Previous Six Scenes concerts have given audiences their first look at operas that went on to fully-produced world premieres including Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case (UrbanArias and Prototype Festival), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate (ODC/San Francisco Opera 2012), and the upcoming Three Way by Robert Paterson (Nashville Opera 2017) and The Summer King by Daniel Sonenberg (Pittsburgh Opera 2017).

Following the performances, one of the scenes will be selected to receive a staged reading at Manhattan School of Music in Spring 2017 as part of their annual New American Opera Previews series From Page to Stage.

20150928-DSC_7711Composers & the Voice Fellows, 2015-16; l. to r.: Matthew Barnson, Emily Roller, Edward Einhorn, Mark Sonnenblick, Marc LeMay, Duncan McFarlane, Sky Macklay, Cecilia Livingston, Carlos R. Carrillo, Nell Shaw Cohen; Photo by Steven Pisano

ABOUT COMPOSERS & THE VOICE

Created and led by Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera and former Artistic Director of AOP), Composers & the Voice gives composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. American Opera Projects selects composers and librettists bi-annually for the fellowships, made possible in part by generous awards from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Victor Herbert Foundation. Participants meet in closed sessions from September to April to present and discuss new works composed specifically for the individual voices of the Resident Ensemble with additional training in acting, improv, and libretto study.

In addition to the workshop sessions, C&V fellows benefit from one-on-one mentoring from Ricky Ian Gordon, Daron Hagen, Michael Korie, David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Tobias Picker, Gene Scheer, Stephen Schwartz, and Royce Vavrek. Each of these distinguished artists review their C&V fellow’s work, offer feedback, and participate in C&V discussions.

Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 54 composers & librettists including composers Stefan Weisman (The Scarlet Ibis, PROTOTYPE Festival, 2015), Hannah Lash (Aspen Music Festival), Aleksandra Vrebalov (Mileva, Serbian National Theater), Vivian Fung (2013 Juno Award “Classical Composition of the Year”) and librettist Sara Cooper (The Memory Play, off-Broadway). A complete list of alumni can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

VIEW THE COMPLETE “SIX SCENES” PRESS RELEASE WITH LISTINGS INFO AND BIOS


UrbanArias to feature AOP operas LUCY and THE BLIND in upcoming season

July 27, 2016

UrbanArias, the bold and exciting presenter of contemporary opera in the Washington D.C. area, has announced productions of two AOP operas as part of their 2016-17 seasonLucy: A Memory Opera, by composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke, and The Blind, director John La Bouchardière‘s immersive production of composer Lera Auerbach‘s a cappella opera. Under the leadership of founder Robert Wood, UrbanArias’ has been fulfilling its mission “to expose DC-area audiences to engaging, accessible, entertaining operas, and to provide a venue at which both established and emerging composers can present their shorter works” since its creation in 2011.

“…in Kelley Rourke’s and John Glover’s haunting new chamber opera… ‘Lucy’ becomes a potent exploration of the divide between human and animal.” – Milwaukee Mag

Developed by AOP First Chance in early workshopsLucy: A Memory Opera is a multi-media work of music-theater for baritone and chamber ensemble in one 70-minute act that tells the story of psychologist Maurice Temerlin who, along with his wife Jane, adopted a day-old chimpanzee in the sixties. Naming her Lucy, their intention was to raise her “as much as possible as though she were a human being”. Lucy learns to dress herself, eat with silverware, make tea for guests, look at magazines, communicate through sign language and enjoy cocktails. As Temerlin struggles to hold on to memories of a happy, albeit unconventional, family life, documentation from the experiment challenges him to come to terms with the project’s ultimate consequences.

Upon its premiere by Milwaukee Opera Theater in 2014 (which also commissioned the opera), On Milwaukee called the opera “an incredible triumph” and “absolutely mesmerizing.” UrbanArias will present the East Coast premiere of Lucy on April 1, 2, 7 and 8, 2017 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

AOP First Chance Workshop Performance of Lucy: December 10, 2010 at the Greene Space at WNYC

“Adventurous, eerie and thoroughly engaging” – The New York Times on the 2013 world premiere of THE BLIND.

At a lonely clearing in a wood, a group of blind people await the return of a priest who led them there in order to enable them to enjoy the last rays of the sun before the beginning of winter. Only the sound of the nearby sea can be heard. The longer they wait, the more restless the blind people become; in their desperation they realize that they are helpless and cannot move from their place. Their fear escalates to naked terror when they make a morbid discovery.

Premiered by AOP and Lincoln Center Festival in 2013, director John La Bouchardière’s reimagining of composer Lera Auerbach’s a cappella opera immerses the audience in the story by blindfolding them and placing them amongst the protagonists. Denying all the power to see and situating the voices within the audience, the performance unfolds in a shifting surround-sound world, in which non-visual senses are heightened as the smells of the forest, the feeling of sea breezes, the cold falling snow and Auerbach’s music enfold them. UrbanArias will present The Blind on June 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11, 2017 at Signature Theatre.

AOP/Lincoln Center Festival 2013 World Premiere of The Blind at  Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

The two operas in the upcoming season will continue AOP’s close presenting partnership with UrbanArias, following last year’s new production of AOP’s As One the world premiere of the AOP-developed She After, and their 2012 world premiere of the AOP-developed Paul’s Case, a production that made its NYC premiere at the PROTOTYPE Festival in 2014. In addition to Lucy and The Blind, UrbanArias 2016-17 season includes Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat in October.


Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park the Subject of 12 Mini-operas by NYU Composers

April 22, 2016

“Park and Bark” to premiere in Fort Greene Park and NYU on May 7 and 8

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

NEW YORK – On May 7 and 8, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects (AOP), and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy (FGPC) will present “Park and Bark,” twelve mini-operas written by students in Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) on the subject of Fort Greene Park, one of New York’s, and the nation’s, most historic and vibrant neighborhood parks. The operas, each under fifteen minutes, include dramatizations of the park’s large dog walking community, the remains of the Prison Ship Martyrs from the American Revolution, and a park gardener in a post-apocalyptic future. Six of the operas, staged by opera director, associate Arts Professor and Head of Dramaturgy in the Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film Sam Helfrich (Glimmerglass, Virginia Opera, Boston Lyric), will be performed at NYU Tisch’s Black Box Theater (715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY 10003) on Saturday, May 7th at 2:00pm. The other six operas will be performed in an outdoor concert near the Visitors Center at Fort Greene Park on Sunday, May 8th at 4:00pm. All performances are free and open to the public. Seating for May 7 is limited and can be reserved at https://parkandbarkmay7.eventbrite.com. More information can be found at www.aopopera.org.

The operas will be performed by sopranos Kamala Sankaram (Prototype Festival), Deborah van Renterghem (Santa Fe Opera), and Amelia Watkins (Leipzig Gewandhaus), mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel (Seattle Opera), tenor Blake Friedman (Brooklyn Academy of Music), countertenor Eric Brenner (Prototype Festival), baritone Jorell Williams (Santa Fe Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group), and bass Sam Carl (Berlin Opera Academy, Edinburgh International Festival). Like Mozart, Handel, and Verdi, who often wrote roles for particular singers, the composers worked with the professional opera singers and music directors Kelly Horsted and Mila Henry on the development of the thirteen operas.

Students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) began learning the ins and outs of opera writing this spring when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partnered with Tisch School of the Arts for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer and faculty member Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch, as well as recent alumni, to collaborate with professional opera singers and music directors under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

AOP General Director and Fort Greene Park Conservancy Chairman Charles Jarden, with park and conservancy staff, guided the thirteen composer/librettist teams’ research of Fort Greene Park in diverse subjects as park history, modern anecdotes, and neighborhood color.

“This process has been particularly helpful for anyone who has gone through school already and needs critical eyes on their work,” wrote Casey O’Neil, one of the workshop’s composers. “Randall and the guest instructors delivered terrific and specific feedback, which has helped make the works much stronger.”

Support for the workshop was provided by the Institute of Performing Arts, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and a multi-year award to AOP from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with the free performances made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

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